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Power Board Dangers

For decades, the proliferation of devices has hugely outstripped that of power points. Once a room/office has some power points, it's simple and inexpensive to add a double-adaptor or a power board to accommodate one more printer, iPhone charger, second monitor, powered USB hub or whatnot. And it's difficult and expensive to add more power points. Even areas supposedly set up as dedicated server/comms space often have fewer points than devices.

And to make matters worse, these areas tend to also house massive but non-critical devices such as multi-function printer/copiers alongside important equipment such as servers and routers, and place them all on the same power board.

While it might be harmless to run, say, a router and switch from a single power point, it's the creeping decadal growth of adaptors and power boards that causes the problems, particularly because the power boards have become very cheap commodity items that do a simple job without any consideration of the equipment that's plugged into it.

At its 2013 Open Day, the South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service had this nasty bit of work on display:

Many businesses operate from premises which are decades old, and haven't had any substantial rewiring for about as long. If that sounds like yours, now's the time to audit your power board/adaptor use, and have an electrician add proper power points to areas where more devices need power. See how many power boards you can get rid of.

If you absolutely must have some power boards, check that they have surge protection as a minimum, and preferably replace those cheap power strips with more substantial power boards that have been designed for computers and electronics. A rough price-guide is just under $100.

Furthermore, try to keep only a single “big-ticket” device per power board — for example, one computer or one large laser printer.

If you're building a new office fitout, try to work out how many power points you will need in each zone, then add a few extras. You may be surprised how quickly they are used.

Another dodgy power board, liberated from one of our client's premises, February 2014

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